Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Snowy Plover

Since Crater Lake didn't work out for us (see yesterday's post), we decided to spend the rest of our holiday at Bandon. It's become one our favorite vacation spots since first staying at Bullard's Beach State Park 5 or 6 years ago.
Last time we visited a couple of years ago, we explored the Face Rock and Elephant Rock areas and enjoyed them immensely. My wife had a vague recollection of walking some non-beach trails during that time and wanted to return, so we set out to find them Sunday evening. While looking for the trails, we stopped at one of the entries to Bandon State Natural Area. It wasn't what we were looking for, but there were some interesting signs discussing Snowy Plovers.
Evidently they breed on that beach and the signs were there to help educate people about their existence, their endangered status and how easy it can be to damage their nests. It was very interesting and I decided that I would come the next morning and see if I could find any.
I arrived at about 7:30 on Monday morning and found that a large sand dune with beach grass was roped off. There signs on each post stating that the area behind the ropes was off limits to the public because of the nesting. Because of the sensitivity of the area, I kept my distance from the ropes, but followed along the beach parallel to them.
To my surprise, I wasn't there more than a few minutes when a couple of Snowy Plovers appeared ahead of me on the beach sand. They were aware of me, but seemed OK with my presence as long as I didn't move around too much. I took some pictures then decided I wouldn't disturb them anymore and moved on.
After doing some research, I discovered that Snowy Plovers make nests in the sand similar to the way Killdeers make open nests on the ground. They are easily scared off and will abandon their nests when startled leaving them vulnerable to predators. One thing that that I am still confused on is that the area that was roped off was covered with beach grass. My understanding is that they build their nests on open sand and that introduced European grass was robbing the Plovers of nesting habitat. It doesn't quite add up, but I'm sure they must know what they are doing.


  1. Awesome! I have yet to see a Snowy Plover. I've seen similar roped off areas for Piping Plover on the east coast- it appeared to be mostly grass but I assume there is plenty of sand within the areas also?

  2. Jen is correct. There are often bare patches in the grassy areas. In addition, the ropes are usually placed away from the nest sites to keep people back from sensitive areas. Sometimes this includes the back side of the foredune as well. Sometimes the ropes have to be in the grass to keep from washing out at high tide. People should stay on the wet sand to avoid disturbing the sensitive nesting plovers which can cause nest failure, particularly if visitors frequently approach the ropes.